Oscar 2007: Lowest Ratings Ever for Feb 24 Telecast

February 25, 2008–Sundays Oscar telecast on ABC took a tumble in the ratings, attracting the shows smallest audience on record. The reason(s): Violent films with mostly dark grim themes, combined with an awards season that lacked any real momentum thanks to the writers strike.

Preliminary Nielsen estimates reveal that 32 million viewers were watching at any given minute during Sundays three-hour-plus telecast hosted by Jon Stewart, with viewership peaking around 10 p.m.

While still a nice audience relative to most primetime fare, its less than one-third the crowd generated by the Super Bowl on Fox earlier this month (97.5 million).

Its also a smaller audience, by comparison, than several other National Football League playoff games as well as the premiere episode this season of Foxs American Idol.

ABC sold most of its ad inventory prior to the start of the writers strike and thus made a profit by selling its 30-second spots for an impressive $1.8 million. But this years ratings could hurt next years ad sales.

Sundays audience was down sharply from last years 40.17 million and also below the previous low-water mark of 33.04 million in 2003, a show held days after the start of the war in Iraq.

This years Oscars had its own hurdles to overcome, most notably the 100-day-writers strike, which cut into preparation time for producers and writers.

Also likely a factor was the selection of host, as there wasnt the curiosity factor that accompanied Jon Stewarts first Oscar hosting two years ago.

And then there were the nominees themselves, which were dominated by little-seen pics and included numerous foreign-born thesps, many of whom took home Oscars on Sunday.

The show averaged a 10.7 rating in adults 18-49, down 24% from last year (14.1) and 14% below the previous low of 2003 (12.5).

The top five highest-rated markets were New York (30.6 household rating/44 share), Chicago (29.1/43), San Francisco (27.2/47), West Palm (26.1/39) and Los Angeles (25.6/41). A year ago, New York generated a 35.3 rating, and Los Angeles a 32.0.

There wasnt much competition, though it wouldnt be surprising to see ABCs rivals more aggressively counter-program the Oscars in future years if its ratings continue to slide.

National ratings for all Sunday shows, including ABCs other Oscar-related programming, will be issued by Nielsen later today. In prelims, the Oscars Red Carpet 2008 spec in the 8 oclock half-hour leading into the kudocast averaged a 6.3 rating in 18-49 and 21.5 million viewers overall.